Where The Flowers Bloom: Claudia Koh
Bearing compositional resemblance with reverence to the northern renaissance masterpiece, The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, Koh’s works involve a high level of meticulous yet spontaneous details, leaving the audience to decipher the allegories and symbolisms planted within her paintings.
Drawing influence from various angles of pop culture, films, and fashion, Koh assimilates these aspects into her works, setting in a layer of her personality. A notable component that directs her works is the colour palettes of children’s storybooks and vintage propaganda posters of North Korea. In particular, Koh was fascinated by the stark contrast between the image and meaning of propaganda posters.
“When I look at propaganda posters, they’re appealing to the eye but in reality, they carry dark overtones. What you see is not what you get, there’s always a buried meaning.” Koh adopts the concept of alluring visuals with hidden connotations in some of her works.
Stepping into the serene landscape of Fantasyland (2022), Koh sets animals as her subjects. This painting is an idealized portrayal of her curiosity about what people regard as fantasy and their tactile fetishes. What seemingly looks like a page out of a children’s storybook, upon closer look, the scattered animals in the garden bear humanly body features wearing intimate sensual paraphernalia. Much like how humour is used to deflect trauma, Koh confronts her fear of physical intimacy through bizarre yet witty depictions of animals as humans.
Often starting her works by painting the backgrounds first, Koh sets the mood of Eve’s Garden (2022) by creating a feminine ambiance with pastel tones of pink and green accompanied by dainty flowers and birds delicately settled on the branches in the foreground. In this scene of springtime, peculiar figures gleefully prance around, illustrating the liberation of being in a place where vulnerability is trusted. Being familiar with curvier figurations, she gravitates towards painting bodies that reflect her own. Embracing her femininity, this work is a portrayal of the gentle nature and sensibility a woman embodies.
Reminiscing on her childhood, Sanctuary (2022) is symbolic of Koh’s memory of growing up in an Asian household. With the depiction of plumped fruits and oriental decorative flowers complemented by an old-school charm, this painting is representative of Koh’s dual heritage being Chinese and Peranakan. Playing on the traditional saying that a woman’s place is at home or in the kitchen, Koh overturns that belief and instead illustrates how women are the heart and soul of every household.
Through odd yet good-humoured depictions of animals, nature and life surrounding her, this series of works invites us to understand Koh’s curiosities and personal sentiments.
Having graduated with a Diploma in Fine Arts from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in 2020, Koh will be pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts (BFA) at the Rhode Island School of Design and will be graduating in 2026.
Where The Flowers Bloom will be on view at Cuturi Gallery from 16th July to 7th August 2022.
Text By Renee Loh